Books On Books Collection – Cari Ferraro

The First Writing (2004)

The First Writing (2004)
Cari Ferraro
Leporello attached to front board; leather thong and bead closure.. H178 x W127 mm (7 x 5 in) closed; W1245 mm open (49 in). 10 panels. Edition of 50, of which this is #40. Purchased from Vamp&Tramp, 4 January 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Strange as it sounds to the Western ear, writing came before the alphabet. And like the alphabet, that ancient writing has inspired artists’ books. Two of them in the Books On Books collection are Helen Malone’s Alphabetic Codes (2005) and Cari Ferraro’s The First Writing (2004).

Crumpled Lokta paper dyed to resemble old leather and decorated with a crescent moon in gold metallic ink covers the boards of The First Writing. Just as much as old leather — and along with the interior — it evokes a painted cave wall to conjure up the archeologist Marija Gimbutas’s theory “that the first writing actually predated Sumerian businessmen by a few thousand years, and instead grew out of symbolic marks on ritual objects made to venerate the Great Mother in Old Europe”. Inspired by the archaelogist’s catalogue of marks in her book The Civilization of the Goddess, the glyphs and stylized alphabet round out Ferraro’s poetic invocation of the theory against the background of undeciphered symbols found in the 5000-year-old circular passage tombs at Knowth and Newgrange in Ireland (both described by Gimbutas). A link to Ferraro’s excellent essay on Gimbutas’s work can be found below under Further Reading.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

Lanore Cady“. 16 December 2022. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book.

Lyn Davies“. 7 August 2022. Books On Books Collection. Reference and fine print.

Timothy Donaldson“. 1 February 2023. Books On Books Collection. Reference.

Rudyard Kipling and Chloë Cheese“. Books On Books Collection. Illustrated children’s book. [In progress]

Abe Kuipers“. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book. [In progress]

Helen Malone“. 23 July 2020. Books On Books Collection. Sculpture book.

Don Robb and Anne Smith“. Books On Books Collection. Illustrated children’s book. [In progress]

James Rumford. 21 November 2022. Books On Books Collection. Illustrated children’s book.

Tiphaine Samoyault“. Books On Books Collection. Illustrated children’s book. [In progress]

Ben Shahn“. 20 July 2022. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book.

Pat Sweet“. 18 January 2023. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s miniature book.

Tommy Thompson“. 21 August 2022. Books On Books Collection. Reference.

Dave Wood“. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book. [In progress]

Clodd, Edward. 1913. The Story of the Alphabet. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1913. Superseded by several later works, but is freely available online with line illustrations and some black and white photos.

Diringer, David, and Reinhold Regensburger. 1968. The alphabet: a key to the history of mankind. London: Hutchinson. A standard, beginning to be challenged by late 20th and early 21st century archaeological findings and palaeographical studies.

Drucker, Johanna. 1999. The alphabetic labyrinth: the letters in history and imagination. New York, N.Y.: Thames and Hudson.

Ege, Otto. 1921/1998. The Story of the Alphabet, Its Evolution and Development… Embellished Typographically with Printer’s Flowers Arranged by Richard J. Hoffman. Van Nuys, CA: Richard J. Hoffman. A miniature. The type ornaments chosen by Hoffman are arranged chronologically by designer (Garamond, Granjon, Rogers) and printed in color.

Ferraro, Cari. 2010. “Sacred Script: Ancient Marks from Old Europe“. Cari Ferraro: Prose & Letters. Accessed 4 January 2022. Also published in Alphabet : the journal of the Friends of Calligraphy. Volume 35.3. San Francisco Friends of Calligraphy.

Firmage, Richard A. 2001. The alphabet. London: Bloomsbury.

Fischer, Steven Roger. 2008. A history of writing. London: Reaktion Books.

Gimbutas Marija. 1991. The Civilization of the Goddess. San Francisco Calif: HarperSanFrancisco.

Jackson, Donald. 1997. The story of writing. Monmouth, England: Calligraphy Centre.

Pflughaupt, Laurent. 2008. Letter by letter: an alphabetical miscellany. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Robinson, Andrew. 1995. The story of writing. London: Thames and Hudson.

Rosen, Michael. 2014. Alphabetical: how every letter tells a story. London: John Murray.

Sacks, David. 2003. Language visible unraveling the mystery of the alphabet from A to Z. New York: Broadway Books.

Thompson, Tommy. 1952. The ABC of our alphabet. London: Studio Publications. Not a fine press publication, but its layout, illustrations and use of two colors bear comparison with the Davies book. It too is out of print and unfortunately more rare.

Books On Books Collection – Marie Lancelin

Gestes Alphabétiques (2014)

Gestes Alphabétiques (2014)
Marie Lancelin
Double-sided leporello with sleeve. H200 x W170 mm (closed). 14 panels. Laser-printed, screen print. Interior: offset on Arcoset Extra White 170 gsm. Cover and band: serigraphy on Curious Skin 270 gsm. Edition of 100. Acquired from Printed Matter, Inc., 31 July 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the publisher, Grante Ègle (Nantes, France).

There is a long-standing tradition of “dancing the alphabet”. In his satyr play Amphiaraus, Sophocles brings in an actor dancing the letters. A more extended instance comes from 5th century Greek dramatist Kallias; his entire play Grammatike Theoria (“ABC Show” or “The ABC Tragedy“) presents the alphabet and pronunciation exercises. Apparently in acting out the letters psi and omega, the chorus member’s performance tended to the erotic, a phenomenon still to be found in Erté’s alphabet suite (1927/1978) and Anthon Beeke’s Alphabet (1970). Less suggestive are Vítězslav Nezval’s Abeceda (1926), Toshifumi Kawahara’s Dancing Alphabets (1991) and, most recently, Marie Lancelin’s Gestes Alphabétiques (its publisher issued two editions of 100 copies each in 2008 and 2014).

All the media and techniques that Lancelin engaged to make Gestes Alphabétiques — photograms, photomontage, laser printing, serigraphy, staging, lighting, drawing, printing — take her gestures beyond the alphabet and geometric abstractions we can easily see. Also apparent is her grounding in filming; the overlaying of the model’s poses transform that side of the leporello into a dance sequence. With the combined techniques, the ink and paper create the effect of displaying the dance through transparencies or glass or within some black and white computer graphic setting.

Fundamentally, through these media, techniques and the double-sided leporello form, Lancelin translates gesture, symbol, shape and light into one another and back again, offering the viewer the opportunity to see the artist explore the making of meaning.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. 31 March 2020. Books On Books Collection.

Anthon Beeke“. 21 June 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Toshifumi Kawahara“. 29 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Vítězslav Nezval“. 16 July 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Brooke, Olivia, and Julian Deghy. N.d. Naked Alphabet. Website. Accessed 7 June 2021.

Erté. 1978. Erté graphics: five complete suites reproduced in full color – the seasons, the alphabet, the numerals, the aces, the precious stones. New York: Dover.

Gagné, Renaud. 2013. “Dancing Letters: The Alphabetic Tragedy of Kallias”. In Choral Mediations in Greek Tragedy, ed. R. Gagné and M. Hopman, Cambridge University Press 282-307.

Goetz, Sair. “Letterforms / Humanforms“. 11 June 2020. Letterform Archive. Accessed 7 June 2021.

Lancelin, Marie. 29 October – 19 December 2015. “My Models“. Exhibition. In Extenso. Accessed 1 January 2023.

Lawler, Lillian. April 1941. “The Dance of the Alphabet”. The Classical Outlook, 18: 7, pp. 69-71.

Wise, Jennifer. 1998. Dionysus Writes : The Invention of Theatre in Ancient Greece. Ithaca ; London: Cornell UP.

Books On Books Collection – Brian D. Cohen

The Bird Book (2013)

The Bird Book (2013)
Brian D. Cohen & Holiday Eames
Case bound hardback, paper over boards with doublures. H260 x W210 mm. 56 unnumbered pages. Acquired from The Saint Bookstore, 17 September 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with the artist’s permission.

Brian Cohen’s inclusion of the following statement makes examining The Bird Book again and again a rewarding effort:

The printmaking technique … used for this book was originally developed by William Blake in 1788. The printing plates for the book were created with acids and engraving on metal (zinc) plates as in traditional etching techniques. The plates were then printed by carefully rolling a thin layer of ink over the surface of the plate, exactly the way a woodblock (relief print) is made. Because the technique combines both etching to create the plates and relief printing, it is termed relief etching. After printing, each individual sheet was hand-colored by brush with watercolor by the artist.

The artist has also encouraged close viewing of each relief etching by hiding its letter in the background, middle ground or foreground — or even the body of the bird.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

Shelli Ogilvy“. 28 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Carol Schwartzott“. 28 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Gascoigne Bamber. 2017. How to Identify Prints : A Complete Guide to Manual and Mechanical Processes from Woodcut to Inkjet. 2nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 7-8.

Books On Books Collection – Carol Schwartzott

ABC of Birds (2020)

ABC of Birds (2020)
Carol Schwartzott
Cabinet of curiosity housing a miniature book in paste paper slipcase; double-sided leporello of transparent vellum pockets holding collaged cards. Book measures 2 x 3 x 1.5 inches. 28 pocket pages (collages, title page and colophon). Book in edition of 25, of which this is #13. “Cabinet of Curiosity” is one of five. Acquired from Vamp & Tramp, 4 January 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with artist’s permission.

The cabinet of curosity recalls Joseph Cornell’s box constructions, and while the cards’ collages may extend that influence, they differ from it sufficiently in intensity of color (having been scanned for printing and “touched up” with pencils or over colored), incorporation of an abecedary and use of an unusual variant on the leporello to distinguish the work as Schwartzott’s. She writes:

The collages themselves were done as original art, each 4 x 6″ centered on a larger sheet of Rives BFK. There are 26 of these. All are reduced to miniature format, and a graphic letter in an interesting font completes the image. Each of these little cards can be removed from the book.

The trimmed edges of the cards give them the appearance of oversized postage stamps, appropriate for the album-style binding and their removability for philatelic-like examination.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

Brian D. Cohen“. 28 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Shelli Ogilvy“. 28 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Kyle, Hedi, and Ulla Warchol. 2018. The Art of the Fold How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures. London: Laurence King Publishing. To explore the pocket variant on the leporello. See review here.

Books On Books Collection – Shelli Ogilvy

Alphabet Bird Collection (2009)

Alphabet Bird Collection (2009)
Shelli Ogilvy
Dustjacket, casebound paper over board, sewn, single-color doublures. H215 x W215 mm. 56 unnumbered pages. Acquired from Hay-on-Wye Booksellers, 16 December 2022.
Photos: Books on Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

In Alphabet Bird Collection, each double-page spread features the letter of the alphabet, a bird representing it, a couplet followed by prose to describe the bird’s distinctive behavior and habitat, and, beneath, a musical staff with an attempt to represent a sample of each bird’s song or call. Unifying each double-page spread is its own full-bleed background color. The primary distinguishing feature of this abecedary, however, is Shelli Ogilvy’s artwork — original paintings of each bird. Ogilvy works primarily with acrylic on canvas or paper, sometimes combining mediums of chalk, ink, and spray paint into her work.

Instead of concluding with XYZ as with other abecedaries, this entry concludes with a favorite bird.

For another instance of magpie obsession, see Nick Wonham’s The Charm of Magpies (2018).

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

Brian D. Cohen“. 28 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Carol Schwartzott“. 28 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Books On Books Collection – “La Prose du Transsibérien Re-Creation” by Kitty Maryatt

It was 1913. Stravinsky’s ballet “The Rite of Spring” debuted. The Cubists, Constructivists, Suprematists, Futurists all bound onto the art scene, many of them showcased in the Armory Show in New York that year. The Nouvelle revue française (NRF) attempted the first book form of Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard, which revived that 1897 typographic disruption of the page and prepared the ground for dozens of works of book art since. And Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay-Terk announced and published what they called le premier livre simultané. It was La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France.

From the Bodleian Library collection
Photos: Books On Books

From the National Art Library, Victoria & Albert
Photo: Books On Books

La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France (1913)
Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay-Terk
Photo: Swann Gallery Auction “19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings Featuring Property from the Ismar Littmann Family Collection“, 5 March 2019.

Like Mallarmé, Cendrars disrupts the page with multiple typefaces (thirty distinct ones in his case) and scattered placement of lines and stanzas. But La Prose presents an even more physical and structural disruption of the page and book than Un Coup de Dés. Unlike the latter, La Prose unfolds — twice — in an accordion format to over two metres in length or rather height since the text descends on the right and ends alongside the interlinked images of the Eiffel Tower and a Ferris wheel at the foot of the accordion. Cendrars and Delaunay had aimed to produce 150 copies of La Prose because, placed end to end, that would have equalled the Eiffel Tower’s height.

More than this monumental, sculptural, typographic and physical disruption of page and book, La Prose presents a temporal disruption. By le premier livre simultané, Cendrars meant a simultaneity of the verbal and visual — the way that text and image appear all at once — en un éclair. Early Bohemian that he was, Cendrars was co-opting a fair bit of artistic and literary theorising by the Cubists, Futurists and others. Most important and of the moment was his co-opting of Robert and Sonia Delaunay’s colour theory of simultanéisme. The “couleurs simultanées de Mme Delaunay-Terk” had also appeared in her 1913 robe simultanée and paintings. Building on a French scientist’s exposition on how perception of colours changes depending on the colours around them, the Delaunays claimed that rhythmic, musical and spatial synaesthetic elements were also at play. Sonia Delaunay asserted that the artwork produced for La Prose was not in response to reading the poem but hearing it from Cendrars. (Listen to it for yourself here.)

La robe simultanée/“The Simultaneous Dress” (1913)
as displayed in ”Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern, 15 April – 9 August 2015
Photo: © LondonArtFile.

In presenting the adolescent Cendrars travelling physically eastward on the Transsibérien, travelling mentally to Flanders-Basle-Timbuctoo-Auteuil-Longchamps-Paris-New York while still registering the landscape outside, seeing the maimed and wounded returning from the front of the Russo-Japanese war, conversing with a prostitute named after Joan of Arc, doubting himself as a poet, and so on until a sudden transposition back to Paris, the process poem juxtaposes the sacred and profane, past/present/future, stationary and dynamic, national and international in outlook and locale. In short, simultaneously. In a format that is bound and unbound, the poem mirrors the swirling, interacting shapes and colours beside and in which it moves — and vice versa.

However more disruptive of the page and book La Prose may have been, it did not inspire the profusion of direct re-interpretations (or appropriations) that Un Coup de Dés prompted from artists such as Jérémie Bennequin, Ellsworth Kelly, Man Ray, Didier Mutel, Michel Pichler, Eric Zboya and dozens of others.

Bennequin, Kelly, Man Ray, Mutel, Pichler and Zboya on the shoulders of Mallarmé.

Not until 2001 did a re-versioning of La Prose appear. Tony Baker and Alan Halsey published an English translation and codex re-formatting. Its black on white imagery is reminiscent of the Russian Futurists, the type is monochromatic, and the typefaces, fonts and weights vary but not as much as in La Prose.

Baker and Halsey note in their colophon:

So far as we’re aware no translation of the poem into English has ever been attempted to give a sense of Cendrars and Delaunay’s original conception, not the least reason for which may have been the difficulty until recently of seeing the first edition, even in reproduction. Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jeanne de France (Sheffield: West House Books, 2001)

A well-founded lament — at least for the book art community. Not until 2000 had there been a reduced-scale reproduction of La Prose. It appeared in Granary Books’  A Book of the Book by Jerome Rothenberg and Steven Clay across a four-page foldout in the embrace of Ron Padgett’s English translation. Only in 2008 was there a full-scale, full-colour offset facsimile, produced by Yale University Press with an appended translation. It is now out of print.

The Yale University Press offset facsimile. Image courtesy of Accordion Publications

With her work La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation (2019), Kitty Maryatt has changed all that. With this deuxième livre simultané, she has more than caught the echo of Cendrars/Delaunay’s original and its arrival. As scholar, artist and veritable impresaria, she has reinvigorated the book art/arts community with the legacy of La Prose

Her blogspot documents the research and production with rich details about sourcing the type, learning about stencil-cutting from Atelier Coloris (one of the few remaining businesses devoted to pochoir), determining the recipes for the ink colours, testing papers (Zerkall Crème, Biblio, and Rives HW), creating a census of the existing 1913/14 originals and their locations —  all that and more, including the use of bacon fat and a wine bottle filled with lead shot. She also organized a documentary by Rosylyn Rhee: “The Pochoir Re-creation of La Prose du Transsibérien”. It brings the importance of the original and this re-creation to life in the expressions and voices of prominent collectors, librarians and scholars, artists, rare book dealers and the project’s funders.

In addition, Maryatt has been either a contributor to, or the motivating force behind, several symposia and exhibitions such as “Paris 1913: Reinventing the Artist’s Book” (at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, 2018) and “Drop Dead Gorgeous”. The latter is a travelling exhibition resulting from invitations to twenty-four book artists and designer bookbinders to design and create bound copies of La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation. For the San Francisco venue, Maryatt prepared a workshop on traditional French pochoir and provided text for the exhibition catalogue (available from the online store of the San Francisco Center for Books).

Announcement of “Drop Dead Gorgeous” exhibition at the San Francisco Center for Books, showing Dominic Riley’s fine binding of La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation

Monique Lallier’s fine binding of La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation 
Photos: Courtesy of Monique Lallier

The pinnacle of Maryatt’s efforts, of course, is the standard and deluxe editions of La Prose. Both editions consist of 4 pages, glued together to create the tall single page. For the standard edition, the page is folded into 21 sections and loosely placed in a painted vellum cover with a booklet describing the project and production. An acrylic slipcase houses the covered bundle.

The standard edition
Photo: Books On Books

Photo: Books On Books

Photos: Books On Books

For the deluxe edition, the single page is left double-wide, accordion-folded double-tall between aluminum covers and housed in a clamshell box. A separate case holds the painted vellum cover, colour cards, Sonia’s visual vocabulary, 27 progressives for page one, 5 pochoir plates with tracing paper and registration system, the booklet with introduction and colophon, and the list of 30 typefaces Cendrars used. A large clamshell box houses this separate case and the boxed book. The colour cards include the recipe for mixing the gouache, and Sonia’s visual vocabulary shows the numbered steps of operations. The progressives for page one show the steps for doing the pochoir stencils and handwork.

The deluxe edition
Photos: Courtesy of Kitty Maryatt

Any institution with a focus on book art or the graphic arts should seek out the standard edition of La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation. Any institution with a focus on teaching and practice in those domains should seek out the deluxe edition. As indefatigable as Cendrars and as productive as Delaunay, Kitty Maryatt has provided the basis of master classes for generations. Now it is up to the book art community to respond as it has to Un Coup de Dés.

A shorter version of this essay appears in Parenthesis 39, Fall Issue, 2020.

Further Reading

Ashton, Doré. “On Blaise Cendrars. . . But I Digress.” Raritan 31, no. 2 (2011): 1-42,164. An entertaining extended anecdote sketching Cendrars and his milieu.

Gage, John. Colour and Meaning : Art, Science and Symbolism (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999). Despite her works’ better quality and representation of simultanéisme, Gage focuses on Robert and mentions Sonia only in passing or footnotes. (Telling that the Tate chose Sonia not Robert for a retrospective in 2015.) Nevertheless, there are passages that place her work in context.

P.198: Chevreul’s “privileging of the harmony of complementaries was essentially in the context of ‘painting in flat tints’, a method developed largely in the decorative arts, but which was increasingly integrated into many branches of French painting in the second half of the nineteenth century …”.

P.254 “When, probably early in 1912, Delaunay wrote to Kandinsky outlining his theories, he had shifted to a rather different approach, claiming: ‘the laws I discovered … are based on researches into the transparency of colour, that can be compared with musical tones. This has obliged me to discover the movement of colours.’ …

P.256 [Delaunay’s] Essay on Light, which was composed in the summer of 1912, attributed the movement of colours less to transparency than to the qualities of hue: ‘Movement is given by the relationship of unequal measures, of contrasts of colours among themselves which constitute Reality. The reality has depth (we see as far as the stars), and thus becomes rhythmic Simultaneity.’”

P.257 “For Chevreul in 1839 such painting [in flat tints] had only a decorative, accessory function, but the Delaunays did not feel the distinction, and Sonia had recently been experimenting with flat colours in appliqué textiles and in bookbindings decorated with collage.”

Maryatt, Kitty. “A Bookmaker’s Analysis of Blaise Cendrar’s and Sonia Delaunay’s La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France”, The Quarterly Newsletter (Fall 2016), The Book Club of California. Online version available here.

Maryatt, Kitty. Interview with Steve Miller, Book Arts Podcasts, School of Library Information and Sciences, University of Alabama, 13 January 2006.

Perloff, Marjorie. The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture, 2nd ed. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2003). Along with Shingler’s essay, this is the best explication of the work and its lineage with Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés.

Rothenberg, Jerome; Clay, Steven. A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the Book & Writing (New York City: Granary Books, 2000). Contains an excerpt from Perloff’s book above, Ron Padgett’s translation of La Prose and a four-page foldout showing a full-color photo-reduction of the 1913 original.

Shingler, Katherine. “Visual-verbal encounters in Cendrars and Delaunay‘s
La Prose du Transsibérien
“, e-France: an on-line Journal of French Studies, Vol. 3, 2012, pp. 1-28. Accessed 15 November 2019. Along with Perloff’s book, this is the best explication of the work and its lineage with Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés.

Sidoti, Antoine. Genèse et dossier d’une polémique: ‘La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France’. Blaise Cendrars – Sonia Delaunay (Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1987). Provides the compressed time line within which the poet and artist created the work.

Slevin, Tom. Visions of the Human: Art, World War I and the Modernist Subject (London: I.B. Tauris, 2015). Provides a lengthy discussion of la robe simultanée and La Prose.

Woodall, Stephen. “La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France”, Insights from the de Young and Legion of Honor (San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2020. A spectacular website presenting the original work in its context and its influences on subsequent book art. The work can be viewed panel by panel, and its overall structure is presented in an animation of its unfolding and refolding.

Books On Books Collection – Louisa Boyd

Stardust (2013)

Stardust (2013) Louisa Boyd 
Leather bound, oil-based ink, Somerset paper, micro-fibre suede, Magnani handmade ivory wove paper, metal leaf, pencil crayon; 16 panels.
Closed – H70 x W45cm x D10 mm; Open – H70 x W420 mm. Edition of 20, of which this is #10. Acquired from the artist, 28 May 2017. Photos: Courtesy of the artist.

Other works, not in collection

Flare
2013
Magnani handmade white wove paper
12cm x 12cm x 8cm
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

Through abstraction and symbol, Louisa Boyd‘s art focuses on sense of place and our intrinsic connection to nature. The titles of three of her artist’s book series – Infinity, Landscape, and Mapping – and those of the book art in them – Aether (2013), A Walk (2001), and Cartography I (2014)  – reflect that focus. How she manages abstract imagery and symbol across her range of material and techniques – paper (including hand-marbled paper), book structure, printmaking (block, screen, letterpress), watercolor, metalwork, leatherwork – adds to that unifying focus through a rightness of choice but also introduces a breadth of originality and variety.

In Aether, the crayon work, cutting and metalwork are applied with a three-dimensional sense wedded to an obvious understanding of the possibilities of the page and double-page spread. The stop-motion animation video tour of Aether (click on the image below) makes you wonder if Boyd conceived the work as a flipbook in the first place. There is no wondering, however, about the place of human existence in relation to the aether. In the video, look at the lower righthand fore-edge of the book.

Aether
2013
Leather handbound artist’s book with box. Cover in leather and paper onlay. Edge coloring.
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist
For a video tour of Aether, click on the image.

A Walk illustrates Boyd’s skill with freestanding three-dimensional sculpture, a skill that has grown in The Flight Series (more later on two of its works from 2009) and The Paper Manipulation Series, from which the work Flare above comes.

A Walk 
2001
Handbound artists book, torn and cut with each page individually painted to depict the different views of a walk through the landscape. Watercolour on paper.
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist
For a video tour of A Walk, click on the image. (Caveat: The title of the work in the video varies from that here, which is taken from Boyd’s website.)

Her use of abstract markings and the Turkish map folding technique in Cartography I demonstrates again her careful marriage of abstraction, symbol and technique.

Cartography I
2014
Turkish map-fold book with etched pages and collagraph end papers. Somerset paper. Blind tooled leather cover.
Edition of 3
Dimensions open: H 5” x W 10”x D 4”
Dimensions closed: diameter 5”, depth 1”
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

The etching printed on each of the three internal folded pages is an abstract that nevertheless evokes mapping, which the form and fold of the pages reinforces. Each Turkish fold page can lay flat to be viewed individually, or as pictured above and below, the book may be viewed as a sculpture.

Cartography I from above
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

The video tours (links embedded the images of Aether and A Walk above) represent Boyd’s search for what she calls “a bridge between traditional and contemporary media”. So far, that exploration reflects the artist’s rootedness in the book arts and traditional skills and processes of drawing, printing and painting. It is intriguing to think what effect a bit of influence from Helen Douglas or Amaranth Borsuk might have on Boyd’s bridge. The use of stop-action video for Aether hints at an instinct for what Douglas calls “visual narrative”.

A professed recurrent theme in Boyd’s book art is “restriction and freedom”. Although it arises from periods of city dwelling and lack of access to the countryside, imposed by the UK’s 2001 “foot and mouth” epidemic, it manifests itself in the more “traditional” spur of constraint of form and structure that goads an artist’s imagination. Flock (2009) and A Walk bear close resemblance, but note the difference in invention whereby the former plays with the book form by placing the bird imagery at the edges, spirals the paper tearing upwards and gradates the watercolor from dark to light (like a flock dispersing) and the latter deals with the “restricted” walk by blending the watercolor with tearing and tunneling.

Flock
2009
Artist’s book with watercolour
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

Take Flight (2009) frees its bird imagery even more fully from the structure of the book and occupies space as a fully three-dimensional work.

Take Flight
2009
Artist’s book with watercolour
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

Detail
Take Flight
2009
Artist’s book with watercolour
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist
Multifaceted
2014
edition of 4
Dimensions closed 4” x 2” x 1/2” (10cm x 5cm x 1cm) open 4” x 21 1/2” (9cm x 51cm)
Leather, oil-based ink, Somerset and Magnani paper
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

Although Multifaceted returns to the theme of different views that was the intent in A Walk, it tilts the theme more toward the abstract side of Boyd’s work. In this, Multifaceted is more akin to the works in The Paper Manipulation Series: Flare (2013), Whorl (2013), and Pleat (2013). It almost purely plays with the concept of differing perspectives. Again, techniques and form express concept with a simple rightness. This double-sided leporello is designed to be viewed from four different angles. The display of photos here cannot offer the intended perspective (pun intended): the viewer needs to circle the piece to view its facets. That word “facet” is tooled on the interior pages four times, the clue as to how the book should be read.

Multifaceted I from above
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist
Multifaceted II collage view
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

The abstract imagery evoking landscape or skyscape – whether juxtaposed vertically or horizontally – plays with viewpoint. Even the print technique on the interior pages plays with viewpoint: they are prints of an etching inked up both in relief and intaglio.  Breaking free of the ultimate restriction of the book, the pages are not attached to the cover, allowing the piece to be read in four different directions. These features of the work and the seeming absence of that human figure from Aether throw it back on the viewer’s necessary engagement to establish fully the human connection: by engaging with Multifaceted – “reading” it –  the viewer enacts the human place in the aether around the work.

Since graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001 and winning the Paperchase Future of Design Award (2001) and receiving a high commendation from the judges of the New Designer of the Year (2001), Boyd has exhibited in 46 venues. Her 47th is the most significant so far: inclusion in the John Ruskin Prize Shortlist Exhibition at Millennium Gallery in Sheffield, UK (21 June – 8 October, 2017). If this book artist manages to continue her sure-handed forging of concept, material and method, the Ruskin Prize Shortlist Exhibition will not be her last significant exhibition.

Further reading about Louisa Boyd and her work:

‘The 2017 exhibition has a theme of the “Artist as Polymath” and the jury have selected a shortlist of artists and makers whose works cross boundaries, take a multidisciplinary approach and bring together varying techniques and materials. As an artist who has been making artist’s books since my final year at university in 2000, I have found that such an approach to work has been essential to bring together concept and visual aesthetics.’

Books On Books Collection – Scott McCarney

Abecedaries have a long lineage among calligraphers, typographers, children’s book authors and designers (including those of online books), fine press impresarios and book artists. From the world of libraries and museums, we have had abecedary lists and exhibitions such as Favorite Alphabets, (Library of Congress), Primers, etc. Post-1850 (Bodleian), Artists’ Alphabets and Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language (New York MoMA).

Since 1981, Scott McCarney has diligently extended the lineage through a series of alphabets designed in book form, where the letterforms depend upon the materiality of the book. The limits and possibilities of the book — its material, form and processes by which both can be handled — have inspired McCarney’s Alphabook series. According to the artist, all the Alphabooks (with the exception of numbers 3, 10 and 13) “are one-of-a-kind, and have not been shown much (if at all), so I’m not aware of them being illustrated anywhere“. Fortunately, Alphabook 1 (1981) appears in The Penland Book of Handmade Books: Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques (2004), p.134, and Alphabook 9 (1985), which McCarney produced as a one-of-a-kind book of photograms in a residency at Light Work in 1985, appears in the Light Work Collection. McCarney describes his inspired manipulation of material, form and process in creating Alphabook 9:

I folded pop-up letterforms with unexposed photo paper in the darkroom and exposed it to directional light then developed, fixed, dried and flattened the prints.  I made a book for Light Work for their collection that spelled out “LIGHTWORK” in the photogram alphabet, which can be seen in their database here: Light Work Collection / Artwork / Photogram Letter book [1133].

Correspondence with Books On Books, 7 February 2020.

And WorldCat shows that Alphabook 13 (1991) can be found in at least three institutions. It was produced in an edition of 25 and consists of one volume (110 x 100 mm) in which the letter A gradually morphs into the letter Z.

With three of the series works now in the Books On Books Collection, the lack of illustration can be somewhat remedied.

Alphabook 3 (1986)

Alphabook 3 (1986)
Scott McCarney
Two volumes, each of 26 unnumbered die-cut pages and wrapped in translucent belly band. Edition of 300, signed but not numbered. Each volume, closed: H151 x W104 mm; open: H151 x W2195. Acquired from the artist, 14 August 2017.
Photos: Books On Books.

Photos: Books On Books.

Unlike most others in the series, Alphabook 3 is a multiple of 300 copies.

Alphabook 10 (2015)

Alphabook 10 (2015)
Scott McCarney
Laser cut duplex papers hand bound with long stitch through slotted cover; housed in archival box. 56 unnumbered pages. 130 x 310 mm; in box 140 x 310 x 30 mm.
Edition of 14, of which this is #11.
Acquired from the artist, 23 January 2020.
Photos: Courtesy of the artist

The codex form receives McCarney’s playfulness in Alphabook 10. The artist writes:

The fore edge of each page is cut into geometric forms from black, white and cream toned duplex stock (two sheets of different colored paper laminated together). … Produced during a residency at The Institute for Electronic Arts, a high technology research studio facility within the School of Art and Design, NYSCC, Alfred University, New York, committed to developing cultural interactions spurred by technological experimentation and artistic investigations.

Scott McCarney, Visual Books. Accessed 9 February 2020.

The handling of the cover and first page draw attention to the role that empty space, light and stock color will play throughout the book.

Photos: Books On Books.

The binding warrants a closer look as well. Outside and inside, the red thread, its pattern and function stand out.

Photos: Books On Books.

And notice how the thread calls out the textured surface of the paper.

Alphabook 13 (1991)

Alphabook 13 (1991)
Scott McCarney
Flipbook, created with a Macintosh IIcx running Aldus® FreeHand™️ software.
H100 x W92 mm. 32 pages. Acquired from the artist, 15 February 2020.
Photo: Books On Books Collection.

Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Photo: Books On Books Collection.

In correspondence with Books On Books, McCarney explains that the Alphabooks’ mismatch of numbering and chronology stems from discrepancies between dates of conception and opportunities to execute. This little flipbook was conceived and executed as a photocopy edition of 25 in 1991; of more importance here though is the coming together of computer-based typesetting, book structure and pun. As we know, the shortest distance between A and Z is not B to Y, but the points in A reconfigured into Z across 24 flipping pages. It is interesting to compare this transformation with Claude Closky’s calligraphic version De A à Z (1991).

Various Small Books (2019/20)

Various Small Books (2019/20)
Scott McCarney
Photo: Books On Books.

Various Small Books (2019)
Scott McCarney
Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

The 2019 edition was conceived for a fundraising exhibition at Artspace in Richmond, VA. Both the 2019 and 2019/20 editions consist of 35mm slides documenting various of McCarney’s bookworks. Consisting of different slides, the two editions of Various Small Books are unique, and since the slides are bound together and cannot be projected, the images of the books appear small indeed.

Various Small Books (2019/20)
Scott McCarney
Photo: Books On Books

Courtesy of the artist, the inclusion in Various Small Books (2019/20) of slides documenting Alphabook 4, Alphabook 6 and Alphabook 10 makes the 2019/20 edition particularly apropos for the Books On Books Collection.

Further Reading and Viewing

ABCs, Bookmarking Book Art, 29 November 2015.

Alphabook 1. See The Penland Book of Handmade Books: Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques (2004), p.134.

Alphabook 3”, Artists’ Books Database, Otis College of Art and Design, n.d. Accessed 25 January 2020.

Alphabook 9 (1986). Light Work Collection.

Reversing the Catastrophe of Fixed Meaning: The Bookworks of Scott McCarney”, Brochure for exhibition, 18 May – 9 July 2012, Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY.

Photos: Books On Books Collection

Scott McCarney | Alphabook 3”, Artists’ Books and Multiples, 20 February 2013. Accessed 25 January 2020.

Scott McCarney, Special Edition”, Contact Sheet, No. 164 (Syracuse, NY: Light Work, 2011). Exhibition catalog, which kicked off the conference “Photographers + Publishing”, 3-5 November 2011, Light Work and Syracuse University.

Home Sweet Home (1985)

Home Sweet Home (1985) [Not in collection]
Scott McCarney
Paper in accordion binding with decorative and marbled paper-covered boards and paper-covered slip case.
11 5/8” x 9 1/2” x 1 3/4”

Books On Books Collection – Wilber Schilling

Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street (1995)

Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street, 1853. Indulgence Press, 1995.
Type composed in 12 point Bulmer on the Monotype System and printed by Wilber Schilling on Arches MBM mould made paper at Janus Press. Calligraphy by Suzanne Moore. Ochre-coloured endpapers handmade by MacGregor & Vinzani.
Wilber Schilling created the frontispiece photo as a Kallitype print from a negative generated in Adobe Photoshop. The binding, also by Schilling, is cloth over sewn boards and, over the cloth, an embossed print of details from the frontispiece photo.
Edition of 100 of which this is #71. H320 x W158 x D14 mm. Acquired from Indulgence Press, 17 December 2015.

Further Reading

Adamson, Chris T. “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, by Herman Melville, Indulgence Press (1995)”, Books and Vines, 11 August 2014. Accessed 14 January 2020.

Suzanne Moore“, Books On Books Collection. 14 January 2020.

Wilber Schilling“, Bookmarking Book Art. 23 November 2015.

Books On Books Collection – Daniel E. Kelm

Neo Emblemata Nova (2005)

Neo Emblemata Nova (2005)
Daniel E. Kelm
Box: H96 x W109 x D102 mm closed.
Booklet cover: H72 x W79 mm closed, H72 x W224 mm open.
Booklet: H72 x W78 mm.
Möbius strip: each tile is H70 x W70 mm; the strip extended is 1000 mm.
Edition of twenty-one, of which this is #18.
Acquired from the artist, 20 October 2018.

Opening the work.

Booklet about the work and its creation.

Inside the top of the box.

View of Neo Emblemata Nova and case

Closing and returning the Möbius strip to its box requires considerably more dexterity than reading; so much so that the booklet included provides instructions.

The Anatomy Lesson (2004)

The Anatomy Lesson (2004)
Joyce Cutler-Shaw
Middletown, CT: Robin Price, Publisher, 2004)
Limited edition of 50, of which this signed copy is the binder’s copy (Daniel E. Kelm). Acquired from the binder, 20 October 2018.

Top of case removed to show book with embedded hologram on cover

Twelve signatures of handmade cotton text paper, the central ten signatures each made up of one sheet H356 x W514 mm and one sheet H356 x W500 mm glued to the 14 mm margin of the first sheet, for a total of ninety-six pages, each measuring H356 x W253 mm.
Binding of leather covered boards (a hologram embedded in front cover) with an open spine, taped and sewn into a reinforcing concertina structure: H361 X W259 mm.
Contained in engraved steel box: H370 x W326 x D44 mm.

Book removed from case, viewed horizontally, spine showing

Detail of sewing and internal view of reinforcing accordion structure. For a description of this type of structure, see Hedi Kyle’s The Art of the Fold (London: Laurence King, 2018), pp. 82-85.

View of the doublure, which is part of the reinforcing concertina structure.

Frontispiece double page spread

Cover page of second signature.

French fold of the frontispiece

Second signature open to double-page spread.

Second signature open to four-page spread.

Further Reading

“Bieler Press”, in Book Art Object, ed. David Jury (Berkeley, CA: Codex Foundation, 2008), pp. 116-17.

Chizhov, Stepan. “Daniel Kelm and Book Arts: Asking Questions, Playing, and Having Fun“. iBookBinding, 3 June 2022. Accessed 4 June 2022. Kelm offers a useful distinction between “sculptural books” and “book sculptures”.

Exhibition: Getting Physical: the Significance of Making Books by Hand, October-December 2015”, Smith College Libraries, 28 October 2015. Accessed 6 September 2019.

“Indulgence Press”, in Book Art Object, ed. David Jury (Berkeley, CA: Codex Foundation, 2008), pp. 198-99.

Poetic Science: Bookworks by Daniel E. Kelm, 12 October 2007 – 10 February 2008“, Smith College Museum of Art. Accessed 6 September 2019. One of the few book art exhibitions that makes an effort to demonstrate the movement and articulation of the works. (Requires Adobe Flash Player)

Miller, Steve. “Daniel Kelm”, Book Arts Podcasts, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alabama, 22 July 2012. Accessed 6 September 2019.

Reed, Marcia. “Handling a Cosmic Book Object”, The Irish 15 October 2018. Accessed 6 September 2019.

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